AHS Board Member Charlie Mitchel Dunn Passes Away

Charlie Mitchel Dunn
Charlie Mitchel Dunn, age 91, died at his home in Auburtown on Friday, March 22, 2013. He was preceded in death by his parents Cecil Patton and Essie Reeves Dunn, 2 sisters, Gladys Hancock and Elizabeth "Billy" Hawkins, by a daughter, Judy Danford, and by 3 great grandchildren, Andrew Jones and Hannah and Emma Nyegaard. He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Irene Hawkins Dunn, a son, David (Trisha) Dunn; 5 grandchildren, Dawn (Steven) Jones, Tara (Lucas) Nyegaard, Chuck (Christy) Danford, Jennie Dunn and Katie Dunn. Mr. Dunn was born in Statesville in 1922 but moved to Auburntown as a child where he was raised. After serving 2 years in the U.S. Army during WWII he earned degrees from MTSU, University of Tennessee and Alabama School of Religion. He taught industrial arts at Marshall County High School before joining the State of Tennessee Department of Education. He served as Assistant Commissioner of Education (Vocational Division) under Governors Ellington, Clement, Dunn and McWherter and Commisioner J. Howard Warf. Under his tenure the Area Vocational Technical Schools (Technology Centers) were instituted. He was also a skilled woodworker.
Mr. Dunn was one of the founding board members of Middle Tennessee Christian school in Murfreesboro. He served as a Bible teacher and elder at The Minerva Drive Church of Christ for many years. The Dunns were among the original members of Minerva Drive. He was a good husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather.
Visitation with the family will be from 1:00 P.M. until 3:00 P.M on Sunday, March 24, 2013 at Jennings and Ayers Funeral Home. A chapel service will be 3:00 P.M. Sunday, March 24, 2013 at Jennings and Ayers with Ron Harper and John Fortner officiating. Burial will follow at Donnell Cemetery in Auburntown, TN. Active pallbearers will be Ken Turney, Roger Turney, Steve Hawkins, Charles Danford, Dan Hancock, Mike Hawkins, Mark Hawkins, Stan Hawkins, Don Hawkins, Lucas Nyegaard, Stephen Jones, and Darby Palmer. Please leave online condolences at www.jenningsandayers.com Jennings & Ayers Funeral Home, 820 S. Church St., Murfreesboro, TN 37130. 615-893-2422

Join the Society

The Auburntown Historical Society
meets February, April, June, August, October
on the third Thursday night at 7 p.m.
Auburntown Church of Christ Fellowship Hall
Annual dues are $15 per year for individuals.
Family and business memberships are available.
For more information email: auburntownhistoricalsociety@gmail.com
or mail: Box 114, Auburntown, Tenn. 37016

Donations to the society for its work on preserving the history of Auburntown and to assist in completion of a comprehensive history book about Auburntown are welcomed.

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World War II Exhibit

In the Presence of Soldiers

Look Inside Nichols History

The Auburntown Historical Society (AHS) met for their first meeting of the year on Thursday evening February 16, 2012. President, Mary Hughes welcomed the group and after a short business meeting, introduced the guest speaker Eddie Nichols, a life long resident of Auburntown in Cannon County. A transcript of his presentation follows:

In the year 1789, my ggggg grandfather, on my mother’s side, purchased 294 acres of land from Edmund Payne. His name was Beverly Willard and he obtained this land in Pittsylvania County Virginia.

By 1800, Beverly had become dissatisfied and had sold his Virginia land and was making plans to migrate to Tennessee. By 1803, he had acquired land from land speculator George Michie. These 120 acres of land were in the newly formed Wilson County of TN. Its location was described as being upon the waters of Hurricane Creek, a fork of Sanders Fork that was a fork of Smith Fork.

No one in 2010 knew where Beverly’s land was located on Hurricane Creek. My brother Danny was about to publish a book on Willard family history. He thought it would be good for his book if we could place the Willard property. He asked my help and this began a five month search for our ancestor: Beverly Willard.

My uncle Frank Willard and Danny had already reviewed and copied deeds and wills of our Willard ancestors at the Wilson County Courthouse in Lebanon. Although Cannon County was established in 1836, some areas including Auburntown, Hurricane Creek, Sycamore, and Marshall Creek remained a portion of Wilson County until 1838.

None of the information in the early Wilson County deeds provided a specific landmark to locate Willard lands. However, I was able to draw plats of their properties from the deed descriptions. I learned the early surveyors used a system of surveying called the Rectangular System. Simple – all lines run north and south, east to west, and distances are measured in poles – a pole being 16 ? feet.

I started viewing land on Hurricane Creek using the computer Map Quest aerial view. A north to south fence row was visible on the west side of the old McAdoo place owned by Ronald Dowdy today. On this land, is located a spring referred to in several old property deeds as the Big Spring. It was a community attraction and was later called the McAdoo Spring. A lane and road traveled from it eastward past the McAdoo Cemetery and across the hill to Sycamore Creek. This area looked good for a Willard placement but no identifiable landmark connected to a Willard could be found for proof.

Needing a known landmark, led us to review deeds in Woodbury at the Cannon County Courthouse dated after 1836. Danny and my wife Donna photographed the old deeds and placed them on the computer where enhanced images made reading them much easier. It became my job to read and interpret these deeds from about 1836 to the 1880’s.

The first important deed found was Nelson Owen to Fountain Owen in 1842 for 140 acres. This deed mentioned Beverly’s fence and Willard’s spring. It gave a description of two acres of land in a third track being transferred with the spring.

Next was an 1861 deed of 12 ? acres being conveyed from J.D. Owen to C.C. Odom. This deed made the statement: “The spring known as the John Willard’s” and gave the number of poles from it to the main Hurricane Creek. Here, finally was an identifiable land mark if it could be found. I knew most of the springs on Hurricane Creek and by estimating distances of their location on Map Quest, I was able to locate one that could be Willard’s spring. It was located on the old Cantrell Bethel Odom place now owned by Randy Toombs. Randy gave Donna and me permission to examine his spring and using a 16 ? foot chain, we measured the exact distance from the spring to the main creek as specified in the 1861 deed. When we got to the creek and counted the number of marks for each pole, we were quiet elated that the distance was 37 poles or 610 feet, the exact distance as recorded in the 1861 deed.

We had hoped the McAdoo property and spring had belonged to Beverly but as it turned out this was not the case. However, William McAdoo was Beverly’s next door neighbor and the executor of his estate. I feel Beverly and many members of his family are buried in the McAdoo Cemetery which is on property owned today by Bobby Dutton.

I’ve stated Beverly Willard was from Virginia. He had been in TN nearly ten years when the James W. Odom family moved from North Carolina to TN. They too began acquiring land around Auburntown and Hurricane Creek. Unlike the Willards this Odom family came with money and slaves. This advantage combined with the destruction of the Civil War, almost squeezed the Willards out of Cannon County.

James Odom had ten children. Two of the most enterprising were William C. Odom and Benjamin Franklin Odom. William C. Odom and one of his sons, Cantrell Bethel Odom, acquired most of the Willard land including Beverly’s sons James and John’s entered land.

Danny and I trace our linage from Beverly’s son John to his son William. William’s first wife was Lovey Duggin. They had six children. Lovey died and William married Tilitha Summar and they had twelve children. This made William the father of eighteen. In 1870, William and most of these children left TN. They traveled in a wagon train of 30 wagons consisting of Cannon County families bound for Freestone County, Texas. This move to Texas could have kept Danny and I from being here tonight except for one little thing. Matthew Wiseman Willard, a son of William, was sweet on one of Cantrell Bethel Odom’s daughters, Drucilla T. Odom. Matt made a fast trip back to TN and he and Drucilla were married in 1871. They made their home on the Auburntown side of Milton Hill. Over the years, Matt made eleven round trips by horse back to Texas to visit relatives. The distance one way was about 800 miles.

One of Matt’s sons, William Gus Willard, was the father of my mother, Mattie Drue Willard Nichols. They lived where Jewell Dale and Robert Patterson own today. My mother Mattie Drue and my daughter Sara Drue (named after her grandmother), bear the family namesake of Drucilla Odom.

Sherrie Paty Barber is the author of a book named “Odom Oracle”. She is a descendent of James W. and Benjamin Franklin Odom. In her book, she gives this account of Benjamin Franklin: “Benjamin Franklin had extensive land holdings in Cannon County prior to the Civil War. He owned over 2000 acres, 90 or more horses and over 75 slaves. The Yankees took the horses and slaves were set free. Benjamin and 6 of his sons fought in the Civil War. Only 5 sons returned home with their father.”

Benjamin managed to father more children than William Willard: nine by his first wife, and ten by his second. Benjamin’s life was cut short in 1881 when he was killed by his son-in-law, Vance Wilson who had married two of Benjamin’s daughters.

Donna and I live on a 180 acre hillside farm that once belonged to Benjamin Franklin (B.F.) Odom. I have collected 33 axes; many plow points, and horse shoes which would have been used in the taming of this land. Both Benjamin and his nephew, Cantrell Bethel Odom are buried in the upper left hand corner of the Odom Cemetery on Sanders Fork. The land for this cemetery was donated by B. F. Odom upon the death of his first wife, Mary Higgins.

I am a 7th generation descendant of Beverly Willard who first came to this part of Tennessee in 1803. A few other Auburntown family names whom also descended from Beverly Willard are: Black, Bogle, Cooper, Cummings, Davenport, Duggin, Frances, Groom, Hale, Hall, Hancock, James, Jones, Keaton, King, McAdoo, Milligan, Moore, Odom, O’Neal, Owen, Ready, Robinson, and Summar.

Family History Tells Story of America

Released Dec. 1, 2011 the History of Beverly Willard Family of Virginia and Tennessee chronicles 250 years of American history as told through the descendants of one man, Beverly Willard, who was born in the mid-1700s and lived in Virginia until his move to Middle Tennessee in the early 19th Century.

“Willard settled in the rural area of what is now Cannon County, Tenn., before 1803,” explained Willard descendant Danny Nichols, author and history enthusiast who compiled, edited and created the narrative for the 1,435-page book. “It is more than the story of an individual, it is the story of a new country through revolution, westward expansion, civil war, industrial development, depression, disasters and the advent of technology. It is an American story of frontiersmen, farmers, patriots, moonshiners and preachers.”

Five years in the making, the publication is the collaborative effort of 50 contributors, crossing 13 generations and containing the names of more than 8,000 of Willard’s descendants. However, Nichols assures that the book is far more than traditional genealogical offerings, calling it “a true-to-life adventure,” supported by more than 200 pages of vintage photographs and hundreds of documents, letters, bible records, personal stories and newspaper accounts.

American history comes alive through stories of one young man who gave his life in 1814 at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend; brothers on opposing sides during the Civil War; a mother who defied a Union officer’s attempt to steal the family meal; a duel in Auburntown, Tenn., and the 40-year feud that resulted; 15 children and their parents who braved the wild West on a wagon-train to settle Texas; a young Texas Ranger murdered in the line of duty; a 95-year-old woman who became a legend in her hometown; and countless other stories of regular people living ordinary – sometimes extraordinary – lives.

Nichols observed that technology was crucial to the process and successful completion of one of the most comprehensive family histories written relative to Cannon County.

“The Willard family was blessed when two descendants created a strong foundational history in the early 1960s,” Nichols said, explaining how the mammoth undertaking began. “With today’s technology, however, it became more apparent that the story was much larger than what was known of it in 1963. Computers and the Internet were not available to those earlier researchers, so finding data required thousands of hours of digging through courthouses and libraries and thousands of miles of travel.”

Nichols submits that contrary to what many think such new technologies have brought families closer.

“It was through the use of the Internet that cousins began to find one another and seek answers about their ancestry,” he said, crediting a “pool of inquisitive cousins” with the idea of coordinating individual efforts toward a common goal of updating the original work.

A private, invitational-access Internet website was created for correspondence among interested group members, with as many as 50 people in 16 states and one foreign country involved.

“To become a member of the Willard project one had to agree to contribute his or her own research materials and other pertinent resources,” Nichols said. “It is the sum of that research that truly tells the story. This work represents what can be accomplished through group effort. The result is well-indexed and referenced, making it a work of quality and significance. In 1803 when the Beverly Willard family settled on Hurricane Creek, no one would have ever dreamed such a story would unfold. It is a story worth telling and a most exciting story to read.”

The History of the Beverly Willard Family of Virginia and Tennessee is being presented on DVD in two volumes in the .pdf format readable by all computers and mobile devices. It may be purchased for $35 which includes shipping and handling. Orders are filled upon receipt at: Danny Nichols, 1565 Main Street, Lynnville, TN 38472.

“The purchaser may view the DVD on a computer, choose to print the publication on a home printer or take the camera-ready files to a professional printer for creation of a book,” Nichols said, adding that 14 different covers were designed to offer choices in personalizing final printed edition.

McKnight House Visit

The Auburntown Historical Society’s July 21 meeting will be held at Auburntown’s most historically significant home beginning at 7 p.m.
Most anyone who has grown up in Auburntown is familiar with the big, white two-story house that sits directly on Main Street on the banks of Marshall Creek, but few know the immense history of the house.
The McKnight House was built in 1857 by John F. Weedon who owned most of the property that Auburntown sits on today. Mr. Weedon moved to Auburntown from Woodbury where the very prominent Weedon family had settled. They were instrumental in the establishment of the Woodbury Baptist Church. He sold off small tracts of land to others who established businesses and thus was instrumental in the creation of the town as it became. One of the properties became that of the first Auburn School and was located across the street from the present day Church of Christ building. Mr. Weedon and his family lived in the house from 1857-1870. After the War Between the States, many of Auburn’s families relocated to Texas. Among them was the Weedon family.
Dr. Bennett Rucker McKnight and family purchased the property during the 1890s. The McKnight daughters lived in the house until the last one passed away during the 1980s. It was then sold at auction by Guy James, a descendant of the McKnight family. The house has undergone considerable renovations over the years, including the removal of the home’s two-story wrap around porches, extensive structural, plumbing, and electrical upgrades, and continual cosmetic work.
It was the charm and character of a historic house that brought the current owners, Josh and Amanda Davis, to buy the property in September 2010 after driving by and seeing it for sale. Amanda had lived in the house previously and rented it from the previous owners, Travis and Beth Hancock. While living there, she did extensive design work on the house, including repainting all interior rooms with Benjamin Moore Historical Colors, removing dry wall from the ceiling to restore the original wooden paneling, restoring the home’s original fireplace mantels, and modernizing both upstairs bathrooms. Being that Amanda is an interior designer, she knew how to appreciate the craftsmanship and strong character of a historical home and kept true to that character in her designs.
Josh and Amanda said they been amazed at the history contained within the walls and property of the McKnight House. When Amanda is not busy restoring the house, she teaches ZUMBA classes and runs her own interior design firm, Just Design This. Josh is always busy teaching 8th grade science in nearby Wilson County, and together Josh and Amanda own a catering company, Just Imagine That Catering & Events.
Future plans include opening the McKnight House for private rentals to those individuals who wish to hold weddings, parties or family reunions in the house or on the property, including catering by Just Imagine That.
Additional future plans for the McKnight House include an extensive exterior paint job, restoration of the wooden front porch and eventual restoration of the house’s two-story wrap around porches. Josh and Amanda also plan to begin the process of having the home placed on the National Register of Historic Places to preserve a piece of Auburntown history forever. The couple said that they are privileged to own such a prestigious piece of history and are excited as they work to restore their house to its original splendor.

Sgt. York's Legacy

Efforts to save, restore school built by Sgt. York extend across the globe
Assistance from throughout the world is being sought to ensure that the school built by WWI hero Sgt. Alvin C. York is saved from demolition, and the Auburntown Historical Society is doing its part to spread the word.
Claudia Johnson-Nichols, executive director of the non-profit Sgt. York Patriotic Foundation, will speak to members and guests of the Auburntown Historical Society Thursday, June 16, at 7 p.m., in the fellowship hall of the Auburntown Church of Christ.
“We are inviting any member of the public who is interested in the story of Sgt. York to join our membership for this special presentation,” said Mary Hughes of the Auburntown Historical Society. “Through screening of a 10-minute video narrated by the late Walter Cronkite, Mrs. Nichols will discuss how Sgt. York’s educational legacy is being preserved. “
Using historic images and vintage film footage, the video focuses on Sgt. York’s life before and after World War I, emphasizing his lifelong commitment to education, which included raising money for a school building used from 1925-1979 to educate the youth of his home area of the Cumberland Plateau.
The building was abandoned when a new school building was built. Although it is listed for its national significance in the National Register of Historic Places, and despite interest over the years in revitalizing it, it fell into disrepair under ownership of the State of Tennessee Department of Education.
The York Agricultural Institute building, which was slated for demolition in 2008 by the state, was the subject of numerous news stories throughout the country and several emotion-filled public hearings on Capitol Hill in Nashville.
After months of struggle, the State of Tennessee agreed to turn over the building to the Sgt. York Patriotic Foundation, a 501c3 organization formed 15 years ago by descendants of Sgt. York, including his three surviving children, and many devotees of the reluctant young World War I soldier from Pall Mall, Tenn., whose resolve in battle brought him world-wide recognition.
Instead of personally capitalizing on his military accomplishments, York, one of the most highly decorated American soldiers to serve in the First World War, looked to the future.
“When I went out into that big outside world I realized how uneducated I was and what a terrible handicap it was,” York wrote. “I was called to lead my people toward a sensible modern education.”
Though York’s efforts, which included fundraising on a national scale and twice mortgaging his own home, the school of which he had dreamed opened in 1925.
“His vision was not limited to the education of children from the remote Cumberland plateau region,” Johnson-Nichols pointed out. “He wanted to include interested adults as well. He set a tremendous example, for he reminded them when he spoke, of his own former limitations, but that by reading, thinking and asking questions, he broadened his own understanding of the world.”
Sgt. York presided over every graduation ceremony until his stroke in 1953, but continued to make regular visits to the school up into the late 1950s, until he grew too frail. When the building was replaced with a more modern facility, neglect took a serious toll on the venerable structure.
With the commitment of the Sergeant York Patriotic Foundation and the cooperation of the State’s education department, the building has been stabalized and will be restored for use once again as an educational facility, both preserving York’s legacy and fulfilling his dream. More than $1million has been spent to save the building, but $4-5 million is the goal for returning the structure to an educational facility, as Sgt. York wanted.
Contact Johnson-Nichols at 931-347-2664 to offer support. Visit www.sgtyork.org to learn more about the Foundation and view photos of the progress being made at York Institute.
For additional information about the Auburntown Historical Society, visit www.auburntowntennessee.blogspot.com.

Though Sgt. Alvin C. York’s efforts, which included fundraising on a national scale and twice mortgaging his own home, the school of which he had dreamed, York Agricultural Institute, opened in Jamestown in 1925. York, in the ditch wearing a white shirt in the center of this vintage photograph, was involved in every aspect of the building's construction, including digging its foundation. More than eight decades later the Sgt. York Patriotic Foundation is fighting to save the building from demolition and restore it for adaptive reuse as an educational facility.
Photo courtesy of Sgt. York Patriotic Foundation

Brawley’s Fork by Robert Bush

The monthly meeting of the Auburntown Historical Society was held Thursday night, May 19 in Auburntown. Presenting a program entitled “Early Tennessee History and History of Brawley’s Fork,” Robert Bush delivered an outstanding presentation to those in attendance. 
Several from the Woodbury and Bradyville communities attended this meeting to hear Mr. Bush speak of his research experiences and conclusions as related to the settlement of Bradyville and the Brawley’s Fork area. 
Much of the same circumstances that led to the development of these settlements also affected the settlement of greater Cannon County. Even after the one hour presentation was concluded, attendees of this meeting continued discussion in an open forum with Mr. Bush that continued for another hour with the meeting actually concluding at 9 p.m. 
One member was heard to express that he learned more about Tennessee history in this one hour presentation than he had learned in a lifetime. Such was the sentiment by others fortunate enough to have attended this particular program presented by one of Cannon County’s own historians.
Mr. Bush has become a respected authority on the history of Cannon County and with special interest on the Brawley’s Fork and Bradyville area which he considers his ancestral home. His research has often been presented in the Cannon Courier and has provided those interested in the county history with much insight with regard to its early settlement.
Meetings of the Auburntown Historical Society are open to the public for attendance. “We strive to bring the highest quality programs available to our community for our membership,” said Danny Nichols, current treasurer and co-founder of the society, adding. “We aren’t just talking about history, but we’re actually making it.”
Nichols noted that after 6 years of existence, the Auburntown Historical Society has become a venue sought out by historians in the area who desire to present programs of interest to the public.
“We welcome visitors, we invite membership,” he said.